Without question, 2012 was certainly a year to remember, and sport played a huge part in that. We will surely never forget the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, and there have been so many other sporting achievements alongside them. Level Playing Field are proud of the behind-the-scenes role we played in making the Games more accessible for disabled fans (although there is always room for access improvements and especially at existing venues) as well as our work throughout the year across many other sports and sporting events.
2012 was a landmark year for us, and we have compiled this review of some of our stand-out memories of this exceptional year.
The most noticeable change during 2012 is probably the launch of our new website. We took on-board comments and opinion from the last few years and completely re-designed the new site from the ground, ensuring a cleaner and sharper and more accessible experience for all users. That means fewer clicks, quicker navigation, social media integration (with direct feeds from our Facebook and Twitter pages) and a host of additional features. Additionally, there is a large amount of information on clubs and venues throughout England and Wales, and not forgetting the fans comments section which allows real-world experiences to be shared so that a more complete picture is presented. These pages now have the option to include much more information from an individual club or DSA, for example DSA Newsletters or the latest club developments. We feel that the website is a drastic improvement and we have already received lots of positive feedback. The website address remains the same – you can find us at https://www.levelplayingfield.org.uk.
Along with the launch of the new LPF website, we also presented our new logo. As we continue to extend our works across all sports, we believe that the new logo represented a fresh approach and gave us an easily-recognisable LPF brand identity that signified our commitment to working with all disabled supporters across all sports. We are really happy with the design and see something different every time we look at it – try it yourself and see how many you can find!
In 2012, we also announced our new LPF Access Audit accreditation. Clubs, stadiums and sporting venues that commission a professional LPF Audit and sign up to working with LPF towards meeting the minimum accessibility standards for sports stadia and venues on match (or event) and non-match days will be presented with an ‘LPF Audited’ accreditation. The club or venue will then be entitled to display the ‘LPF audited’ kite mark at their venue, as a demonstration of their commitment to improving access and inclusion standards. We are really excited about the Access Audit accreditation, and we have had a lot of interest in this already.
Those venues and stadia that demonstrate the highest access and inclusion standards in accommodating disabled spectators and visitors will receive the LPF Centre of Excellence award. To qualify for this, the club or venue must first commission an LPF Audit and demonstrate that it meets the requirements of existing equality and access legislation, building regulations and accessible sports grounds and stadia good practice standards. The first LPF Centre of Excellence awards were presented to Wembley National Stadium and to the Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal FC, in November 2012. We have received many enquiries about the Centre of Excellence award, and we hope to be able to present it to more clubs and venues in 2013. Please see the following link for more information about the LPF audit accreditations.
For more information about the LPF Audit programme and to commission a professional LPF audit please click here. For more information about what to expect from an accessible sports stadium or venue, whether new or existing, please click here.
Another big milestone for us in 2012 was in our cooperation with the Rugby Football League (RFL). In September, we were delighted to announce a ground-breaking new initiative which will see Rugby League become the first sport to conduct full access audits at all stadiums as part of their competition licensing system with a view to improving the quality of facilities available to disabled and non-disabled spectators. RFL has commissioned Level Playing Field to conduct these audits which marks the start of a long term commitment by Rugby League to improving existing facilities and services so by ensuring an inclusive welcome for all Rugby League fans.
Level Playing Field Chair Joyce Cook, OBE applauded the RFL’s commitment to ensuring a more inclusive welcome for all rugby league fans, adding, “We hope that this ground-breaking lead taken by RFL will inspire other sports bodies to look at their own good governance practices in this area and to follow suit. A huge thank you to RFL for setting the standard with a plan for lasting and meaningful change that puts disabled fans and an accessible match day experience at the heart of everything that they do”.
LPF is very much looking forward to working with the RFL in the year ahead – please watch this space for more news and updates.
In addition, we have been continuing to run two key projects within football, both funded by the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (Football Foundation). Firstly, the ‘Working Together’ project which is a 3 year initiative. The purpose of this project is for Level Playing Field to support clubs and disabled fans where no Disabled Supporters Association (DSA) currently exists to form pan disability, user led DSA’s. This will help to improve the relationship, awareness and cooperation between disabled fans, clubs and non – disabled fans. We have received a large amount of interest in this project, with eight clubs and their disabled supporters currently in the process of establishing a new DSA and with other clubs keen to take part in 2013.
Secondly, we have also undertaken a research project to extend the Match Buddies project. This project takes a partnership approach to matching disabled people with a ‘buddy’ who has a shared passion for attending matchdays. This was born out of a pilot scheme we established with the Wigan Learning Partnership Board and Wigan Warriors and Wigan Athletics. This project has since attracted much interest across a number of sports. Phase 1 of the Match Buddies research project is now complete and a tool-kit for use by clubs interested in setting up their own local initiative and a summary of phase one of the project will be published shortly. Please watch this space for phase two of this great project.
Last season’s Level Playing Field Weeks of Action campaign ran from the 10th to the 25th March 2012, and provided a great opportunity for clubs to showcase the positive steps they have taken towards inclusion and equal access. As usual, the campaign was very well-received, with lots of clubs and organisations across different sports committing to take part. Here’s just a sample of how some clubs marked the campaign:
• Exeter City Disabled Supporters Association fully supported the campaign, and to show this they sponsored a mascot at the Preston North End match on the 17th March. Yazeed is 14 years old and has autism, and attends Dawlish School. Yazeed’s father Khalid and two younger brothers Ebaraheem and Abdulaziz attended the match with him.
• Sheffield United showed their support for the Weeks of Action on 17th March at their game against Tranmere Rovers. A number of local community groups were invited to the match. The match also saw Sheffield United Disabled Supporters (SUDS) secretary and Level Playing Field Treasurer Janet Ireland receive a special award – more on that later!
• Swansea linked up with Level Playing Field to host a meeting with their fans on 23rd March at the club to discuss the creation of a Disabled Supporters Association.
The Weeks of Action campaign will run again in 2013, from the 6th to the 21st of April. Please feel free to contact us for more information and to let us know how you plan to celebrate our Weeks of Action, and keep checking the website and newsletter for updates.
On 30th May 2012, we held our Annual General Meeting at the House of Lords. Opened by LPF Vice-President Lord Rosser, Westminster once again played host to an afternoon full of interesting discussion and lively debate as well as the usual AGM business. The undoubted highlight of the AGM was LPF Ambassador June Wratten’s speech on why good access is so important for disabled supporters. June shared her very personal, powerful and emotional story about her and her son Joseph’s experiences and her on-going friendship and bonds with LPF after losing Joseph. June explained why it is so crucial that we continue with the work we are doing.
In closing the AGM, LPF Vice-President Lord Faulkner described how essential it was for our subject to gain wider exposure and called for greater support. Following their election at the AGM, Rex Burton, Keith Graham, Kush Kanodia, Christine Peacock and Mike Rice were elected to the Board of Trustees, and were joined by Alan Turvey as a co-opted Board member. More information about the Board of Trustees is available here.
Each year, we receive a large number of nominations for the Level Playing Field Awards. We then have the unenviable task of choosing three stand-out nominees to receive the Joseph Wratten Award, the Volunteer of the Year Award and the Club Employee Award. This year’s winners were Kev Monks, a disabled Coventry City fan; Albert Boseley, a long-time Lifeline volunteer at Notts County; and Julie Pidgeon, West Ham United’s Disabled Liaison Officer, respectively. All three winners were presented with their awards on the pitch during matches involving their clubs, and we pass on our sincerest congratulations to them.
Two of the Level Playing Field Trustees were also nominated by their fellow fans for the Awards. LPF Vice-Chair Gary Deards and Treasurer Janet Ireland have regularly gone that extra mile for many years, and we were delighted to be able to recognise their outstanding contributions. As mentioned earlier, Janet received her Award on the pitch at halftime at her beloved Sheffield United during the Level Playing Field Weeks of Action. LPF Chair Joyce Cook, OBE made the presentation, and was joined by LPF Ambassador, June Wratten and LPF advisor, Rosie Perkins.
Gary received his award at the Level Playing Field AGM, and was presented with a commemorative plaque by Paul Darling QC, Chairman of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority. Paul paid a glowing tribute to Gary’s continued hard work on behalf of LPF and disabled supporters across the country, and one that we couldn’t agree more with! Many congratulations to Kev, Albert, Julie, Janet and Gary. It’s not too late to nominate someone for the 2013 LPF Awards – please just send details of your nomination to email@example.com.
We have continued to work with sports governing bodies and their clubs throughout 2012 to ensure more accessible facilities and services for disabled fans, these include; the Football Association, Premier League, Football League, Conference League, Ryman Isthmian League, Independent Football Ombudsman, Football Association of Wales, Rugby Football League, Canterbury and Rugby Union, English Cricket Board, LOCOG (for the Olympics and Paralympics London 2012), Sport England and the Sports Ground Safety Authority.
Alongside this, Level Playing Field continues to work in partnership with like-minded disability and equality organisations both within sports and the wider disability sector. LPF is working alongside Kick It Out to help implement their Equality Standards to ensure that access and inclusion forms part of the criteria of these standards and we continue to offer our support to the Football Supporters Federation, Supporters Direct and other fans organisations. We share an office and close bond with our sister charity, Centre for Access to Football in Europe as critical partners in our on-going works. In addition, we continue to work with the All Party Parliamentary Football Group and key politicians in the sporting and disability sector. LPF would like to say thanks to all the organisations that we have worked so successfully with in 2012, and we look forward to building on those important relationships and to making many new friends in 2013. Lastly, we wish to thank our President, David Bernstein and our Vice Presidents, Ambassadors and volunteers for their unstinting support for LPF and our works.
In closing, we would also like to thank our funders and sponsors namely the Football Foundation ( Football Stadia improvement Fund), the Football Association and Evac Chairs and the following benefactors who generously provide expert professional services to Level Playing Field as a charitable pro-bono donation including; Bevan Kidwell (legal advice), Bird Consultancy (media and PR), Katherine Woods (accounting) and all those who have generously donated funds and/or their time during 2012 (the LPF annual report, published in the summer, will include a fuller roll-call of those that donate their time and raise funds for LPF).
It is safe to say that 2012 is a year that sports fans will never forget, and it has certainly been a memorable one for us at LPF.